Monday, December 25, 2006

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'm sure I've done this before...

...but just for the record:


How evil are you?

The fun part is that I just answered the questions honestly. My ideal job really is Executioner.

H/T Pooh.

Update: Here's my wife's result:


How evil are you?

Not at all surprising, since opposites attract.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sigh

XWL, inspired by Blender, did a list of the 25 Greatest LA Songs. This made me wonder what the top Florida songs would be. (Orlando wasn't more than a town as recently as 50 years ago, so there's not going to be 25 songs about Orlando.) A few songs came to mind quickly, but they're mostly about somewhere else, despite the settings. "Gator Country" is very much about Florida, but "American Girl" is really about how much Tom Petty wanted to be in LA, and "Walk on the Wild Side" is really about whatever reality Lou Reed inhabits.

But one song keeps coming to mind as the perfect song about Florida... or at least the perfect song about what Florida has become. Far too much of this, and not enough of this. I've driven through some of the area described in that last article in the last few years, and I can tell you that as recently as 30 years ago places in what's now the massive suburban sprawl of Orlando used to be less developed than the area in that article is now. Give it another 30 years, and that'll be gone too. Since all of this is being caused by people from other places moving here, I figure I may as well grab a song about someplace else to repesent Florida. It'll make the new neighbors feel more at home. So the perfect song about Florida is, naturally, a song about Ohio....



"My City Was Gone"
by The Pretenders

I went back to Ohio
But my city was gone
There was no train station
There was no downtown
South Howard had disappeared
All my favorite places
My city had been pulled down
Reduced to parking spaces
A, o, where did you go Ohio

Well I went back to Ohio
But my family was gone
I stood on the back porch
There was nobody home
I was stunned and amazed
My childhood memories
Slowly swirled past
Like the wind through the trees
A, o, oh way to go Ohio

I went back to Ohio
But my pretty countryside
Had been paved down the middle
By a government that had no pride

The farms of Ohio
Had been replaced by shopping malls
And Muzak filled the air
From Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls
Said, a, o, oh way to go Ohio

FINALLY!

My wife and I have been watching and enjoying House since it first aired. ("Aired"? Yet another anachronism for the digital age.) However, there has been one issue that has always bugged me to distraction: Gregory House, MD and super-genius continues you use his cane in the wrong hand! This has annoyed me to no end. (Which is a curious turn of phrase, although it makes sense when parsed.)

But in the 11/21 episode "Whac-A-Mole" (which I just saw tonight), the issue is addressed! House is having pain in his right, cane-wielding shoulder, and so he sees a physical therapist for relief. The therapy is causing him pain which causes him to say, "OOOOW! I hire you to take away the pain. Is there some confusion?" She immediately retorts, "Ever thought about using your cane on the proper side?"

This still doesn't explain why he refuses to use his cane properly, but at least they've addressed the issue! I can sleep easier now.

Bonus: Whac-A-Mole is a registered trademark of BOB'S SPACE RACERS, INC., which is based right here in sunny Central Florida.

Restating the Obvious Blogging

aka Correction Blogging

In the comments, Pooh corrects me:

Correction, alumni drink way more in bars then do the students.

For one pint of the good stuff at a pub, you get a case of Nattie Ice at the packie. (And let's not even talk about the efficiency of Boone's Farm...)
See, this is what I get for not drinking that much in college. Still, I should have figured this out from drinking in high school.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

So, how's that Baker-Hamilton Report working out?

Let's check some of the responses.

The elected Iraqi President Jalal Talibani has slammed the report:

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani rejected the Iraq Study Group's report Sunday, calling it "very dangerous" to Iraq's sovereignty and constitution.

"We can smell in it the attitude of James Baker," Talabani said, referring to the report's co-chair who served as secretary of state under President George H. W. Bush during the 1991 Iraq war.

Talabani blamed Baker for leaving then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in power after that conflict, which ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

He also criticized the report for recommending a law that would allow thousands of former officials from Hussein's ousted Baath party to serve in Iraqi government posts.

...

"As a whole, I reject this report," Talabani said.

"I think that Baker-Hamilton is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution[.]"
Meanwhile, the Syria's ruling party seems to really like the report:
The United States will face hatred and failure in the Middle East if the White House rejects the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, Syria warned on Sunday, according to The Associated Press. Syria's ruling party's Al-Baath newspaper urged President Bush to take the group's report seriously because it would "diminish hatred for the U.S. in region," AP reported.
So, the governement we've put together in Iraq hates the report, and a government that backs state-sponsored terrorism, including the assasination of foreign leaders and that backs the insurgency in Iraq, loves the report.

Survey sez: As a whole, this report fails to pass the sniff test.

Added: Perhaps this should have been another entry in the "Stating the Obvious" series.

Later: Iran is down with the Baker-Hamilton plan, too. When your enemies are good with a plan, and your allies are against it, perhaps the plan isn't so good. Alternately, maybe we should switch sides. Yeah, that's the ticket....

Monday, December 04, 2006

More Stating the Obvious Blogging

Amadeus is not about Mozart, it's about Salieri. Or rather, it's about a mythical Salieri. F. Murray Abraham creates a first rate performance as the patron saint of mediocrities. Abraham has a long list of credits to his name, and we all know that Practice makes perfect.

Bonus Statement of the Obvious: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly isn't a movie about Clint Eastwood's character, Blondie. It's a movie about Eli Wallach's character, Tuco.

Stating the Obvious Blogging

Earlier my wife and I were discussing the economics of college football. This conversation resulted in me realizing something that should have been blindingly obvious, yet which had alluded me all these years.

We both went to the University of Florida in Gainesville, which is (partially and correctly) known as something of a party school, along with its other many fine attributes. When we started there, UF had approximately 43,000 students. Now that number is closer to 50,000. As is typical of college students, they tend to drink and carouse... a lot. Thus the party school image.

The students reside at UF throughout the school year, of course, and thus drink and carouse year round. However, the bars and restaurants make over 60% of their revenue during eight magical weekends a year, when the University of Florida football team plays its home games. Now, the students don't drink that much more than normal on those weekends.

So what does this mean? That the alumni drink WAY more than the students.

Sometimes even I marvel at my cluelessness.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tools for the Lazy Blogger

Meme blogging! Via Michael J. Totten, the One Word Meme. Follow the links through Totten to see who originated this one.

You can only answer one word. No explanations.

1. Yourself: raging
2. Your spouse: bemused
3. Your hair: wacky
4. Your mother: smoking
5. Your father: dead
6. Your favorite item: memory
7. Your dream last night: unremembered
8. Your favorite drink: lemonade
9. Your dream car: F-88
10. The room you are in: clean!
11. Your ex: non-existent
12. Your fear: idiots
13. What you want to be in 10 years: alive
14. Who you hung out with last night: wife
15. What you're not: healthy
16. Muffins: bran
17: One of your wish list items: teeth
18: Time: NOW!
19. The last thing you did: blogged
20. What you are wearing: clothes
21. Your favorite weather: steamy
22. Your favorite book: unknown
23. The last thing you ate: chicken
24. Your life: happening
25. Your mood: sour
26. Your best friend: wife
27. What you're thinking about right now: cantaloupe
28. Your car: Civic
29. What you are doing at the moment: typing
30. Your summer: desired
31. Your relationship status: married!
32. What is on your TV: nothing
33. What is the weather like: cold
34. When was the last time you laughed: tonight

Monday, November 20, 2006

Not So Random Observation

Maintaining proper dental health is a pain in the ass.

...

Which is very counter-intuitive if you think about it.

But I'm feeling much better now....

Christopher Hitchens pointing out the obvious:

In 1991, for those who keep insisting on the importance of sending enough troops, there were half a million already-triumphant Allied soldiers on the scene. Iraq was stuffed with weapons of mass destruction, just waiting to be discovered by the inspectors of UNSCOM. The mass graves were fresh. The strength of sectarian militias was slight. The influence of Iran, still recovering from the devastating aggression of Saddam Hussein, was limited. Syria was—let's give Baker his due—"on side." The Iraqi Baathists were demoralized by the sheer speed and ignominy of their eviction from Kuwait and completely isolated even from their usual protectors in Moscow, Paris, and Beijing. There would never have been a better opportunity to "address the root cause" and to remove a dictator who was a permanent menace to his subjects, his neighbors, and the world beyond. Instead, he was shamefully confirmed in power and a miserable 12-year period of sanctions helped him to enrich himself and to create the immiserated, uneducated, unemployed underclass that is now one of the "root causes" of a new social breakdown in Iraq. It seems a bit much that the man principally responsible for all this should be so pleased with himself and that he should be hailed on all sides as the very model of the statesmanship we now need.
Which is to say, the people we're choosing to bail us out are the people that helped create the mess throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Out-fucking-standing.

Actually, this is just another case of procrastination being rewarded. I'd been thinking along the lines of Hitchens diatribe and had been meaning to put it down in writing. But by waiting, someone else has done it for me, and done it better than I. And I didn't even have to look for it! I love the interwebs....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sometimes I just have to laugh...

Over at The Moderate Voice there's a post about a student getting Tased in a campus library at UCLA. I'm amused by the cluelessness of most of the reaction. By all accounts, the student who got Tased made a point of being an asshole to the police. If you really think you can do that and NOT get your ass kicked, then you are an idiot. Or possibly someone that went to private schools. Regardless, friends and family shouldn't leave you unattended, as you're clearly a danger to yourself and others....

ADDED: I'm also amazed that people think this is something new. The use of Tasers for this kind of thing is relatively new, but not the behavior of the cops. In the old days they would have used fists, billy clubs or flashlights to get their point across. There's nothing new here except for the cell phone cameras capturing the event.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Buffalo Eight

"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo."

Bad Idea

Bush is going to anoint Senator Mel Martinez (R-Fla) the new RNC Chairman. Somehow I think putting a Bush lackey in charge of the party apparatus is contra-indicated after last Tuesday's ass-whooping, but I guess that's just me. Here's to renewing my party's permanent minority status!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Portrait



Damn, I'm pretty!

(Better image here.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Good to see....

...that the Democrats will rule with humility and respect....

Rangel, D-N.Y., was quoted in a Thursday article in The New York Times, saying: "Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?"

Oh My God!

They botched the post-war planning!

Senior House Democratic aides said Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have otherwise done almost no preparatory work on taking over physical control of the House.

Pelosi has not appointed a trusted Democrat to oversee the transition to Democratic rule, a tactic former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) employed when the GOP won control of the House in the 1994 midterm elections.

Pelosi was very sensitive to accusations by President Bush and other Republican leaders that Democrats "were measuring the drapes" at the Capitol for a takeover, they purposely delayed any transition planning.

"[Pelosi] put the nix on anyone doing the transition," said a high-ranking Democratic aide.
Not only that, but the leadership has become over-confident, even though they don't really know who's in control.
Current Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was not similarly hesitant, formally announcing his bid for the Majority Leader's office early Wednesday morning and confidently predicting that he will secure the post when Democrats vote in leadership election on Nov. 16....

But Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) - who stunned fellow lawmakers when he announced in June that he would campaign for the Majority Leader post against Hoyer - re-affirmed his own interest in the office Wednesday.
Furthermore, they're refusing to let the people know what, if any, plans they have. Murtha will only communicate through partisan mouthpieces:
"I'm working diligently now trying to convince people that I'd make a good balance" to the leadership team, Murtha said in an interview with National Public Radio.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker declined to be interviewed for this article.
And Emanuel refuses to address the press at all:
One day after Democrats decisively seized control of the chamber from the GOP, one of the architects of that victory - Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) - remained mum about his plans despite speculation that he could run for Majority Whip.
Perhaps worst of all, confusion reigns everywhere, the leaders don't seem to understand the situation on the ground, and fears of an insurrection have made people nervous:
Murtha, who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, also defended his decision to seek the leadership post, asserting that not only is the office an "open seat" in the new Congress, but arguing that he outranks Hoyer in the Caucus hierarchy.

"There's Nancy Pelosi, [Appropriations Committee ranking member Rep.] Dave Obey (D-Wis.) and myself, and then Hoyer is listed after me in the power plays," Murtha said on NPR.

That assertion bewildered at least one Democratic House lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity: "In my mind that shows a lack of understanding. I like Mr. Murtha but that's not just the way it is."

"There is real genuine concern that we don't want to see a divisive leadership fight, just at the time that we're seeing tremendous success and tremendous unity and harmony and good feelings in the Caucus," the lawmaker added.
Note how fearful people are to go on record, in fear of reprisals. There have even been reports of looting:
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) wasn’t “on the clock” very long in the first day of the biennial House office lottery before she snagged the personal office of the man whose other office she had just won on Tuesday — Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Here's another report of unrest on the streets:
Those Crazy Nelsons. Great election night for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Not so great though for his son, Charles William Nelson — he goes by Billy and/or Bill Nelson Jr. — who allegedly got rip-roaring drunk and belligerent and wound up in jail.

At least he waited to go off the deep end until after introducing Daddy at the Senator’s re-election victory party. Just hours after Nelson’s speech, police arrested Junior in downtown Orlando near the Embassy Suites where the victory party was held and charged him with battery of a law officer, disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest without violence, according to the Miami Herald.

Police responded to calls about a drunken street brawl and when an officer on bicycle arrived on the scene he found “Nelson, a second unidentified man and a woman who appeared to have passed out.”
How could they have screwed up the occupation so badly?

Friday, November 03, 2006

And because that last post was no fun at all...

I give you this bit of encouraging news!

THE SPECTRE of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.

The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.

The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest.
Ah, good times!

A Better Use of Time...

...than worrying about global warming would be worrying about the health of our oceans. I haven't read this too closely, so it may be a bit on the alarmist side, but I wouldn't be shocked if it's a stone cold sober assessment. [Later: Having read the article a little more closely, it appears to be a sober view. It's not like this study represents the first study of oceanic problems.]

Seriously, wasting time worrying and arguing about global warming is stupid. The oceans are a much more serious concern. If the oceans die, the biosphere dies. And to get an idea of what's going on, go to your search engine of choice and type in "Dead Zones". When I do it, I don't see anything about Dragonball Z, and I see a lot about the oceans.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Because it wouldn't be Halloween....

...without a sequel. As always, these things are not for the squeamish.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Embeds Revisited

Via Instapundit I've seen some more stories regarding the information war in Iraq. A few days ago I wrote a post discussing this topic in the context of a discussion at Done with Mirrors. A large part of that post concerned this piece by Michael Yon. Yon contends that the military has made the process for reporters to embed in specific military units in Iraq so difficult that it amounts to effective censorship.

Today the Instapundit linked to this piece by Michael Fumento. Fumento is now on his third embed inside Iraq, so he writes with some knowledge of the situation. Fumento lambasts the media establishment that reports on Iraq from their hotels in Baghdad. He goes on to fisk those accounts of the dangers of Baghdad for the average reporter. It's pretty powerful stuff.

He gives credit where credit is due, however.

One way the Baghdad press corps and its allies try to steal valor is to invoke the incredibly large number of reporters killed in the war: It's true that over 100 journalists or media assistants have been killed. Yet, with the sole exception of Steven Vincent, the only American journalists killed or even seriously injured by hostile action in Iraq have been embeds. (And even Vincent had been an embed, just not at the time of his death.) Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large Michael Kelly (an editor of mine) drowned after his Humvee rolled into a Baghdad canal during the invasion. NBC reporter David Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism from being cramped in a Humvee, also during the invasion. Both were embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division.

CBS News cameraman Paul Douglas and freelance soundman James Brolan were blown up by an improvised explosive device (IED) while accompanying CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier, herself critically injured. They were embedded with the 4th Infantry Division. So were ABC anchorman Bob Woodruff and his cameraman, who were critically injured by an IED. Time correspondent Michael Weisskopf had his hand blown off trying to toss a grenade out of his Humvee when he was embedded with the 1st Armored Division. These, not the hotel-bound credit-claimers, are the journalist-heroes of the Iraq War.
But this made me wonder about the Yon piece again. Upon re-reading Yon's article, the only non-independent embed request that gets turned down is for a photographer from the VFW magazine. But Fumento's article includes this bit:

What leads the embeds into the most dangerous parts of Iraq is the glaring gap between the reality of the war and the virtuality emanating from the hotels of the IZ. One of them made this point quite forcefully in a recent column. Jerry Newberry, communications director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a Vietnam Army vet, wrote in a September column just before heading off for Afghanistan and then Iraq: "For the most part, the wars being fought by our people in Afghanistan and Iraq - their successes, heroism, and valor - [are] reported by some overpaid, makeup-wearing talking heads, sitting on their fat rear-ends in an air-conditioned hotel. They rely on Iraqi stringers to bring the stuff to them and then call it reporting."
So what gives? Michael Yon's dedication to both reporting and to the US war effort are beyond question. I don't know as much about Fumento, but there is no reason to doubt what he's saying either. So why has one VFW affiliated embed been approved and another turned down? The man who was turned down was Walt Gaya, Iraq II combat verteran turned photographer. Gaya suffered injuries to his left eye during a patrol in Mosul. According to an AP article which Michael Yon links to:

On a routine patrol last July in Mosul, with his trusty Leica camera wedged among the gear in his backpack, a roadside bomb ripped open the hull of Gaya's Stryker combat vehicle, wounding all nine men inside.

Gaya felt his leg throbbing as he helped the others escape the 19-ton vehicle. Shrapnel had torn through his leg and shredded a knee ligament. Then he felt a sharp pain in his left eye. His vision began to blur....

After the explosion, doctors stitched up Gaya's left eye, which had been pierced by a bomb fragment. He was fortunate, they told him, that his eye had not lost all its internal fluid, which likely would have led to its permanent collapse.

But the vision remains impaired -- he can only make out shapes and light and billboard-size letters, he said. At this point, Gaya is considering a cornea transplant.

[It's unclear when this article was written, but it appears to have been filed sometime in the latter half of 2005. That seems likely after having read Yon's May 30, 2006 article about Gaya.]
I haven't found anything further indicating that Gaya's vision has improved. I'm wondering if that may have been a reason that Gaya's embed requests were denied, despite having separate requests from the 4th Infantry Division to embed with them and from Brig. General Dana Pittard to embed with military training teams. This wouldn't make it a GOOD reason, as the units and soldiers involved would know what about Gaya's impairment and whether that would be a serious issue, as would Gaya himself.

But assuming that Gaya was denied an embed because of possible physical impairment and Yon was denied because he's not recognized as mainstream media still leaves questions. Is the military blocking embeds from all sources? Or is the military ignoring the 'small fry' and only permitting recognized news media to embed journalists? If the latter, are those media trying to embed reporters, or are they happy to leave their people sitting in the International Zone in Baghdad and get reports from stringers and insurgents?

This scenario outlined in that last question seems to be the hypothesis that Fumento believes, but is that accurate?

According to a link Yon provides to a story by AP datelined October 16, 2006:

The number of embedded journalists reporting alongside U.S. troops in Iraq has dropped to its lowest level -- 11.

During the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than 600 reporters, TV crews and photographers linked up with U.S. and British units....

Some journalists blame the decline on Pentagon bureaucracy, the reporting restrictions journalists face, and pressure by some commanders to avoid ''negative'' coverage. Journalists and U.S. military officers point to declining interest in the long-running story, and the high cost, both in money and danger, of coverage.
Okay, blaming the Pentagon bureaucracy would be Yon's position. Further supporting that contention is Sig Christenson, a journalist with the San Antonio Express-News and president of Military Reporters and Editors, writing in his blog:
But getting to Iraq is the main problem. Almost four years after the Pentagon unveiled the embedding program, there is no clear-cut way to cover the troops in Iraq. I'm an expert on this after having set up embeds for myself and, last year, for photographer Nicole Fruge and reporter Jesse Bogan. There is no simple, one-step process.

You have to send e-mails to the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad. You have to e-mail local commanders with units you wish to embed with, and they have to accept you. You have to e-mail the Air Force to set up the flights. At some point, you deal directly with someone from the Air Mobility Command, which flies cargo and people into and out of Iraq. This time I also had to e-mail the Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany so we could do the reporting on a series about military medicine. If I do an embed next year, I'll have to start with a new set of public affairs officers because all the old ones have left Iraq.

I'll also have to get a new CPIC identification card. Been there, done that.

Well, this sounds bad. But how is this situation different than what reporters in the Vietnam war went through, or the Korean war, or WWII? I'm asking because I don't know, but that would provide context for this discussion. Presumably the regulations covering this have changed greatly from war to war. If they have, should we revert to earlier versions of the regulations, or at least use them as a guideline for new regulations? In the comments to that post Donald Sensing, who was "an Army public affairs officer at the Pentagon for three years" states that the process was much smoother during WWII, but doesn't outline details. The Military Reporters & Editors group will be having a conference from Oct 26-28 to discuss ways to make this process smoother. Read Christenson's whole post.

Other factors cited above:

* "[T]he reporting restrictions journalists face, and pressure by some commanders to avoid 'negative' coverage...." This argument doesn't seem all that credible, frankly. Are the restrictions really worse than WWII, when strict censorship was applied?

* "Journalists and U.S. military officers point to declining interest in the long-running story...." What?! Declining interest from whom? According to Gallup (scroll down to bottom of page), "The No. 1 national issue appears to be Iraq, and Gallup's mid-October poll showed continuing acceleration in the public's negative views of how the situation there is going." So I can't believe that it is the public that is losing interest. This sounds like it's the journalists who have lost interest.

* "[A]nd the high cost, both in money and danger, of coverage." So, why is this war more expensive to cover than the Vietnam war was, especially for print journalists? And is that a problem that the media organizations themselves need to solve on their own? (The answer to the first question will heavily influence the answer to the second.)
So all of this still leaves me asking these questions from above:
* Is the military blocking embeds from all sources? Is this due to conscious decision or bureaucratic ineptitude?

* Or is the military ignoring the 'small fry' and only permitting recognized news media to embed journalists?

* If the latter, are those media trying to embed reporters, or are they happy to leave their people sitting in the International Zone in Baghdad and get reports from stringers and insurgents?
The more I look into this situation, the murkier it gets.

Headline on Drudge

The Killers 'offended' by Green Day....

I read that headline last night and didn't bat an eye. Today I realized what a strange world we live. Who would have read that headline 100 years ago without thinking "WHAT?!"

Gore Blogging

And I don't mean Al Gore, either. Over at the other place we've been blogging and commenting on various Adventures ... in Dentistry. It started with my friend Witchwolf giving a brief recounting of a recent trip to the dentist. (He later gives more detail in the comments of another thread. And yes, his handle is a Styxx reference. Life spares no opportunity to aggravate me.) I added my own Tale of Woe yesterday, merrily entitled Golf Ball of Doom. That's been followed by Robzilla's adventure in basketball-related injuries, and Lefty's amusing tale of a dentist perched on his chest and pulling hard. In the comments to these posts we argue about who gets to join the club.

But the creme de la creme hasn't been written yet. Co-blogger Plasmaball has a tale of dental woe that puts the rest of us to shame. He probably won't get around to writing it till the weekend, though.

And do I really need to add that these tales are not for the squeamish?

UPDATE: Bill adds a Neal Stephenson take.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

RESOLVED: Bill Crozier is an Idiot and a Member of the Wack-Job Party

Bill of So Quoted makes an obvious point:

Why limit his potential, I vote for both.
"So let it be written. So let it be done."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

It's About the Perception, Stupid.

On Tuesday, October 17, Callimachus wrote a post entitled Think Ink. He wanted

to explain something about the media and Iraq without reference to the media and Iraq. Instead [I] want to talk about the media and the problem of American cities, specifically mine (because I know that one best).

...

Some people have somehow convinced themselves that the media has no influence on reality. If it had no such influence, there's be no point in protecting it, as our constitution does. Of course the media makes a difference. Imagine if you had someone with a camera and a tape recorder following you around all day. Imagine how many things you'd do, or wouldn't do, and how often you'd do something differently.

It changes reality. And in most cases, that's beneficent to our society and a bulwark of democracy....

So can we at least dispense with the notion that the media changes nothing? It changes reality in more subtle ways, too. It is an unwritten axiom in the media itself. We push, or withhold, or play up, or play down, certain stories based on an awareness of how they are likely to change reality.
Cal then gives some examples of how news coverage has shaped the image of the town in which he lives, and how that coverage has distorted that image. Read the whole post for context. Cal’s point isn’t that there’s necessarily more good news than bad, but that the negative coverage by itself does not give a complete or accurate picture.

In the comments, M. Takhallus starts a bit of a dust up with this:
What I think you overlook Cal, is that the media and the administration is already censoring the negative stories coming out of Iraq.
Cal asks him to back this claim up, which MT doesn’t do very effectively. (Many points are made in that comment thread. I recommend it.)

Today, however, I came across something that backs up this claim. Michael Yon, an independent journalist who has done a lot of embed work in the last couple of years, writes a scathing piece for The Weekly Standard claiming that the military is censoring news in Iraq:
I feel no shame in saying I hope that Afghanistan and Iraq "succeed," whatever that means. For that very reason, it would be a dereliction to remain silent about our military's ineptitude in handling the press. The subject is worthy of a book, but can't wait that long, lest we grow accustomed to a subtle but all too real censorship of the U.S. war effort.

I don't use the word lightly. Censorship is a hand grenade of an accusation, and a writer should be serious before pulling the pin. Indeed, some war-zone censorship for reasons of operational security is obviously desirable and important. No one can complain when Delta Force will not permit an embed. In fact, I have turned down offers to embed with some Special Operations forces because the limitations on what I could write would not be worth the danger and expense. But we can and should complain when authorities willfully limit war reporting. We should do so whether it happens as a matter of policy, or through incompetence or bureaucratic sloth. The result is the same in any case. And once the matter has been brought to the attention of the military and the Pentagon--which I have quietly done--and still the situation is not rectified, it is time for a public accounting.
He calls out someone in particular:
Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson has repeatedly gone on record decrying the lack of press coverage in Iraq, all while alienating the last vestiges of any press willing to spend month after month in combat with American soldiers. Meanwhile, "the most quoted man in Iraq" has become a major media source in his own right. Too bad there is no one else to tell the story of our troops. Too bad the soldiers' families have little idea what they are up to from day to day.

As stated at the outset, many PAO officers are extremely hardworking and dedicated. My dealings with other PAOs, such as USMC Major Jeffrey Pool and Army Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, have been exemplary. But a system that so easily thwarts the work of good men and women is a system in desperate need of an overhaul.
Yon closes with this:
The media do matter. Our troops are naked without them. Our people would probably still be driving down Iraqi roads in unarmored Humvees were it not for the likes of journalist Edward Lee Pitts, who got a National Guardsman to pose the now infamous "hillbilly armor" question to the secretary of defense. Seven days a week I communicate with wounded service members and families of service members killed in action. They ask, "When are you going back?" They long to hear the details--good, bad, or ugly--that bring them closer to their loved ones. Some get impatient and short with me, perhaps not realizing that Lt. Col. Barry Johnson has the final say and doesn't recognize my work or that of Walt Gaya as warranting an embed on his watch. As this magazine goes to press, military sources tell me that Johnson is on his way out of CPIC, and his successor is said to be much better. This may count as good news. But a system so dependent on the whims of a single officer cannot be relied upon.

The media are far from perfect. War reporters, like everyone else, get things wrong. Some of them, unsympathetic to the war aims, undoubtedly try to twist the news. But no coverage at all is even worse. It does a disservice to American soldiers. It is cruel to their families. It leaves the American public in the dark. If we lose the media war, we will lose Iraq, Afghanistan, and the entire "war on terror."

If our military cannot win the easy media battles with writers who are unashamed to say they want to win the war, there is no chance of winning the hearts and minds of Afghans and Iraqis, and both wars will be lost. And some will blame the media. But that will not resurrect the dead.
This is a double-barreled shotgun blast by Yon, and in The Weekly Standard, no less, which can hardly be accused of being against the Iraq War. So there is definitely some support for Takhallus's accusation of censorship, although it looks like this may be as much about bureaucratic incompetence as it is policy. (This issue is yet to be resolved.)

This can’t help but have an effect on the coverage. More Yon:
In a counterinsurgency, the media battlespace is critical. When it comes to mustering public opinion, rallying support, and forcing opponents to shift tactics and timetables to better suit the home team, our terrorist enemies are destroying us. Al Qaeda's media arm is called al Sahab: the cloud. It feels more like a hurricane. While our enemies have "journalists" crawling all over battlefields to chronicle their successes and our failures, we have an "embed" media system that is so ineptly managed that earlier this fall there were only 9 reporters embedded with 150,000 American troops in Iraq. There were about 770 during the initial invasion.
A week or so earlier, Cal had run a series of posts by a friend of his had been a contractor in Iraq. These posts outlined her security situation, and made it clear that the media could get out and do more reporting around Iraq than they do currently. But if the American news media does not have the opportunity to embed with US forces, we shouldn’t be surprised that the coverage doesn’t reflect that point of view. Whether intentional or not, this is incompetence in managing the information front, and ultimately the Administration’ responsibility.

More from Yon:
There's little comfort in the supposition that this mess might be more the result of incompetence than policy. After all, what does it matter whether the helicopter crashed because it ran out of gas or because someone didn't tighten the bolts on a rotor? Our military enjoys supremely one-sided air and weapons superiority, but this is practically irrelevant in a counterinsurgency where the centers of gravity for the battle are public opinion in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe, and at home. The enemy trumps our jets and satellites with supremely one-sided media superiority. The lowest level terror cells have their own film crews. While al Sahab hums along winning battle after propaganda battle, the bungling gatekeepers at the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) reciprocate with ridiculous and costly obstacles that deter embedded media covering our forces, ultimately causing harm to only one side: ours. And they get away with it because in any conflict that can be portrayed as U.S. military versus media, the public reflexively sides with the military.
This is an immense failure. The other day President Bush acknowledged that the current violence is akin to the Tet Offensive. He meant this in the sense that the enemies are trying to win a decisive public relations battle. Well Mr. President, if you lose Michael Yon, you will lose any chance of winning this battle.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"The first rule of Chess Club is..."

"... you do NOT talk about Chess Club!" Links are okay, however.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Wack-job Party

[Moved to the top. I published another post after this one, but I wanted this at the top. Check out "The Beauty of Procrastination" below.]

Last night while watching the news, my wife and I saw another story of local political idiocy. (Rambling account of that story here.) During that story I had an epiphany about American politics: We need a third party!

Yeah, I know what you're thinking, everybody has that same dumb idea for a new centrist party. Well, that's the thing: I'm not advocating a new centrist party to bring America together, I'm advocating a new party to be composed entirely of America's political wack-jobs! If we could round up the crazies into one group, at least we would know whom to ignore, if nothing else.

I shared this with my wife, who pointed out what seemed to be a fatal flaw in my conception: Who would knowingly join such a party? But I had a ready answer for her: WE will decide who is in the new party. I creatively suggest calling this new force in American politics the Wack-job Party. (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party has already been taken, unfortunately. Anyway, that's a different concept, as those people have voluntarily joined that august organization.)

(Note: The spelling and hyphen came after discussion with my wife. Don't like it? The convince me that I'm wrong.)

I haven't completely figured this out yet, but I do have a few rules:

  1. Once a member of the Wack-job Party, always a member. After all, if you've completely flipped your lid once, how do we know you won't do so again in the future?
  2. Membership in another political party does not at all preclude one from being in the Wack-job Party.
  3. The Wack-job Party is apolitical. The purpose is to tag the political wackos of any political stripe, or even those of no political stripe.

I still haven't worked out who the WE that gets to elect membership to the party should be, however. It seems obvious that I should be part of the WE because it's my idea. However, I can't be the sole Selector, as that path is fraught with danger. A one man selection committee is subject to personal selection bias. So the Selectors should probably be composed of a group, with some sort of voting process to determine who gets elected to the party. Any ideas?

(Note: I don't include my wife because I doubt she would want to be involved in this idiocy.)

That said, I do have a few early entrants for the Wack-job Party.

  1. Democrat Dr. Bob Bowman , an advocate of George Bush and Karl Rove being behind the 9/11 attacks ("Really?!"), running for the US House of Representatives from Florida's 15th District. Congratulations, you've just joined the Inaugural Class of the Wack-job Party of America! (The link leads to a Frank J. interview of Dr. Bowman. And Frank J. knows wack-job politics when he sees it!)
  2. Republican Representative and US Senate Candidate from Florida Katherine Harris, for her exemplary work in making even conservative Christian Republicans want to vote for Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson!
  3. Local Republican (recently Democrat) State House Representative Sheri McInvale, for inspiring this idea in the first place by being an idiot!

Being an idiot shouldn't be enough to get one in the Wack-job Party (else our whole damned political class would become instant members), but Representative McInvale gets special consideration for being so inspirational.

So, who's got more suggestions on how to elect members to the party, or simply more suggestions for membership?

[Additional Note: If you know of someone already doing this, please let me know. There's no reason to divide our efforts.]

The Beauty of Procrastination

Sometimes procrastination is the absolute best policy. The reason? Because sometimes if you wait, the problem either takes care of itself, or someone else goes to the trouble of taking care of it for you.

For example, I had been meaning to put together a post pulling together some of the stories about the complete moral failure in Kofi Annan's UN career. Fortunately, a couple of weeks back The Times of London put the story together better than I could have ever done.

Srebrenica is rarely mentioned nowadays in Annan’s offices on the 38th floor of the UN secretariat building in New York. He steps down in December after a decade as secretary-general. His retirement will be marked by plaudits. But behind the honorifics and the accolades lies a darker story: of incompetence, mismanagement and worse. Annan was the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) between March 1993 and December 1996. The Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 men and boys and the slaughter of 800,000 people in Rwanda happened on his watch. In Bosnia and Rwanda, UN officials directed peacekeepers to stand back from the killing, their concern apparently to guard the UN’s status as a neutral observer. This was a shock to those who believed the UN was there to help them.

Annan’s term has also been marked by scandal: from the sexual abuse of women and children in the Congo by UN peacekeepers to the greatest financial scam in history, the UN-administered oil-for-food programme. Arguably, a trial of the UN would be more apt than a leaving party.

The charge sheet would include guarding its own interests over those it supposedly protects; endemic opacity and lack of accountability; obstructing investigations, promoting the inept and marginalising the dedicated.
The article then goes into some detail about some of the particulars: Annan's failure to prevent the genocide in Rwanda, the massacres in Srebrenica, and the ongoing whatever-the-hell-it-is in Darfur. Read it all, before it disappears into the archives.

All of which makes me want to ask, again: Where does "moral authority" come from? Who decides who has it, and who doesn't? And if the UN has it, why should I do anything other than curse the whole concept?

Local Political Idiocy

My wife and I saw a strange story on the local news last night. One of the State House of Representative elections in Orlando got ugly (or uglier, not sure which) in the last week.

The incumbent, one-time Democrat and current Republican Sheri McInvale sent out a flyer about her opponent, Democrat Scott Randolph. In a flyer that was ostensibly about immigration and healthcare issues, Mcinvale used a picture of her opponent standing with a drag queen. (If I recall correctly, it was from a Halloween event from last year. Sorry, I can't find the sorry the local channel aired. So no link love for them.) The ad, which McInvale's campaign has not put on her campaign website, seems to attempt to 'smear' Randolph with 'the gay thing'. One of the local paper's bloggers described it thusly:

The latest mailing that McInvale and her Republican Party sent out is supposedly about immigration. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the main photo she used.

The photo McInvale picked features her Democratic opponent, Scott Randolph, standing with a drag queen. (It's Miss Sammy, who's probably one of Orlando's most convincing queens. But a queen nonetheless.)

Above the photo is a line that says Randolph is "Wrong for our families."

And on top of the picture of Randolph and the queen is a line that says: "Who do you think will have to pay their medical bills and other costs?"

...

Even Patrick Howell, the head of the Log Cabin Republicans, said McInvale should apologize.

So McInvale did. Sort of. In a statement later in the week, she wrote: "There are those that were offended by a recent party mailer. There was, of course, no intent to offend anyone. However, I regret that some individuals took it out of context and as a result had their feelings hurt."

Really, it was one of those I'm-sorry-YOU-were-offended things. But McInvale also pointed to her past championing of gay-rights causes, like gay adoption, and vowed to continue being a champion.

And Howell said "McInvale has carried more water for the gay and lesbian community than any other member of the Central Florida delegation -- Republican or Democrat."

He's right. In fact, McInvale was one of the few pols at the last grand-opening celebration of Gay Days. I remember chatting with her that night for quite some time.
Read the whole thing, as they say.

Interestingly, McInvale only switched her party affiliation in January of this year. Even MORE interestingly, she originally won her seat in 2002 by defeating a gay Republican candidate. According to the People for the American Way website [scroll down to the second FLORIDA entry], in that election:
Doug Head, chairperson of the Orange County Democratic Party, came under fire for comments quoted in The Orlando Sentinel, equating a gay Democrat voting for an openly gay Republican candidate with “a Jew voting for Hitler.” Patrick Howell, an openly gay man, was running for the Florida Legislature as a Republican in a district that includes a predominately gay Orlando neighborhood. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which had endorsed Howell, called the remarks “alarming and reprehensible.” The local Republican Party chair labeled the comments as “so extreme, so vulgar and so desperate that it begs for a reaction of indignant outrage.” Head attempted to clarify his remarks by responding that Howell was not “Hitler” and that for gay Democrats “not to recognize that the Republican Party isn’t going to look out for their interests isn’t [sic] paying attention.” Incumbent Rep. Allen Trovillian, R-Winter Park, who was included in PFAWF’s most recent Hostile Climate report for a reported anti-gay tirade against a group of gay student lobbyists, endorsed Howell’s Democratic opponent, Sheri McInvale, who went on to win the District 36 race.
Very strange indeed! She for gays, except when she's against gays, depending on which position will help her get elected. Out-standing!

I wouldn't be surprised if this backfires, however. Her district includes a sizable gay population, who will now likely be motivated to turn out and vote against her. After all, if a gay Democrat voting for an openly gay Republican candidate is like “a Jew voting for Hitler”, then how bad would it be for a gay Democrat to vote for any Republican? She's not only managed to be offensive, but also dumb. I'd ask why we keep electing these idiots, but why would anyone with any sense want to run for office?

Game Day Observations

The officials for the Bengals-Bucs game stunk. There were several blown calls, although in the end they about balanced out.

The worst occurred on a play in the first half. The Bucs QB, Bruce Gradkowski, threw an incomplete pass on 2nd and 20. Instead of ruling that the ball had hit the ground, the officials initially ruled that the ball had popped up in the air after being deflected from a defensive player's hands, and was then intercepted and returned. On the run-back, Gradkowski made a tackle by grabbing a Bengal player's facemask.

The official then stated that there had been an interception, and that defensive player #71 had committed a flagrant facemask penalty. Three times wrong! First, it was NOT an interception. Second, Gradkowski is not a defensive player. Third, his number is #7, not #71.

The Bucs challenged the ruling, and duly won. However, the facemask penalty stood, making it 2nd and long. Except that the officials now said that it was 3rd down! They managed to get one play wrong in four different ways! Pathetic. That whole crew ought to be fired.

After the game, Brett Favre had a commercial for the drug Prilosec. Given that Brett Favre has struggled with addiction problems in the past, perhaps he's not the ideal candidate to tell us about better living through chemicals, even if it is just an anti-heartburn drug.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Wackjob Party

Or is that the Whackjob Party? Discuss.

[More tomorrow. Or as Drudge likes to say, "Developing...."]

Sunday, October 08, 2006

It Must Be the Global Warming

[Update below]

To date, 2006 has been a HORRIBLE year for hurricanes. Due to Global Warming (TM), 2006 has seen one major hurricane after another devastate the coast of the SE USA, the US Gulf Coast, and large sections of the Caribbean and Latin America.

Oh, wait, that's not right. It's been a horrible year for these Hurricanes, not for storm activity. Tropical activity in the Atlantic and Caribbean has been thankfully average this year, and should trail off. (Thank you Weather Phenomenon Known as El Nino!) So, if Global Warming was the cause of the recent active seasons, is it also the cause of the current average season? (Really, it feels like a below average season, although that is purely a subjective feeling.)

Incidentally, below is one of the most beautiful website posts imaginable:

000
ABNT20 KNHC 081507
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1130 AM EDT SUN OCT 8 2006

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS WITHIN A COUPLE HUNDRED MILES OF THE COAST OF SOUTH CAROLINA ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A NON-TROPICAL UPPER-LEVEL AREA OF LOW PRESSURE. TROPICAL STORM FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED HERE OR ELSEWHERE THROUGH MONDAY.

$$
FORECASTER FRANKLIN


UPDATE: XWL shows up in the comments and reflexively blames the problems with the Hurricanes on the Clinton Administration. Well, just because we right-wingers reflexively blame everything on the Clinton Administration doesn't mean we're wrong!

I find it ironic that when The Revolution comes, some of the Clintonistas will be amongst the first up against the wall....

Monday, October 02, 2006

Misreading the Situation

I believe that Amba has misread a key part of the current political situation. Here she mentions an interview with Richard Viguerie that she has just seen on CNN. According to Amba (whom I have no reason to doubt),

[Mr. Viguerie said] he felt betrayed by the Republicans in power, that they've betrayed the voters who put them in power with their big-government shenanigans, and apparently have no principle or goal other than remaining in power. Viguerie says he no longer considers himself a Republican, but rather a "Reagan conservative."
This is significant because Viguerie is one the prime movers of the American conservative movement of the last several decades. His dissatisfaction with the current Republican Party is chronicled in his new book, and at his website. Now he has called for the immediate resignation of the House GOP leadership because of the Foley scandal. This bodes ill for Republicans in the coming election. (On the other hand, the fact that they are running against Democrats bodes well for them.)

Where Amba is mistaken is in her conclusion: "Another hard blow to partisanship from an unexpected direction!" This is surely incorrect. Viguerie isn't against partisanship, he's for partisanship. To quote from the last link above:
In his book, Conservatives Betrayed (Bonus Books, 2006), Viguerie makes the case that the GOP leadership on Capitol Hill has held power too long and has become like the Democrats whom they replaced a dozen years ago.
Viguerie wants a party that is true to conservative principles, a party that matters, a party he can fight for. He's all for partisanship - he just wants it to mean something.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fizzle

Or perhaps that should read FIZZLE! Ernesto has become a non-event. However, state and local authorities as well as citizens used this as a dry run for the real thing, so it makes for good preparation. (One of the local news stations had an interview with an old woman. She had put her new storm shudders up not because she thought they were needed, but just to see what kind of glitches might develop. Smart.)

But Ernesto will not be a total waste. Ernesto will be a big, wet, sloppy kiss from the tropics to the state's lawns, swamps, lakes, rivers, forests and aquifers. It's been a dry year and the remnants of a tropical system can make up for a lot of lost rainfall.

And as a bonus, I get to go to work tomorrow and run my reports. WA-HOO!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tropical Storm Ernesto

Ernesto got hung up in Cuba and his path shifted eastward, so now he will miss the warmest waters of the Straits of Florida. So we will get wet and windy on Wednesday, but no hurricane. Obviously concerns for Orlando are now much lessened.

Regardless, I went over to Mom's tonight and secured a few things around her house. Her place should be good to go now. Our place is practically Cat 3 hurricane ready at all times. Fifteen minutes is all it would take to get ready for a big storm, so a tropical storm will only require five minutes of prep, if I stop to listen to the tree frogs. I will take care of that stuff tomorrow evening. If we're going to get a tropical weather event, this is the kind to have. Now the concerns are for the Bahamas and the Keys, and the coastal communities. Probably the greatest concern now is for the Carolinas. See Bill's post for more on that.

More later, if events warrant the attention.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hurricane Ernesto

Coming soon, to a blog near me! If I have the time over the next few days I will add some posts about this storm. It SHOULDN'T be too bad, but a Cat 1 hurricane is still a big storm worthy of respect. Unfortunately, my brother has disappeared again, so I will need to go take care of Mom's house as well as my own over the next couple of days. Time, and power, permitting I will be blogging the first hurricane of the season as it is set to track directly over my house sometime Thursday. More later....

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Speaking of Things That Suck

Fox has decided to ruin their football broadcasts. A little musical florish now sounds whenever the down and distance graphic appears. It is EXTREMELY annoying. What in the name of Sid Gilman are they thinking?

The Reason Al Gore Sucks

Wherein: Finally!

In my last post I stated that Al Gore sucks and Global Warming rules. Now for some explanation.

From July 2000 until August 2003 my wife and I lived in Baltimore, Maryland. Given that I had previously lived my entire life (from conception!) in Florida, and that my wife had lived her life in similar climes, this was a BAD IDEA. But necessity (i.e., jobs) forced us north.

In February of 2003, Baltimore was hit by the biggest snow storm in recorded Baltimore history. Over 28 inches of snow fell over President's Day weekend, on top of several other inches that were still on the ground from the previous weekend. We lived on the northwest side of Baltimore in a townhouse in Reisterstown, so we probably had closer to 36 inches than 28.

Unfortunately for me, we had bought a second car the previous December. This meant that when the snow stopped I had to dig two cars out of the snow bank. Worse yet, the parking lot was at the bottom of an embankment, which meant we had to shovel the snow UP the embankment.

Around mid-day on Monday, everyone in the complex that had a shovel came out, and we started to dig. We spent several hours moving that frozen water up hill. At the end of the day, my right arm and shoulder were sore. I thought nothing of it. After all, I was a desk jockey and not prone to great physical exertion.

As the weeks passed the pain and weakness only got worse. At the start of April I finally went to a doctor. I got referred to an orthopedic specialist fairly quickly. He determined that it was probably a small tear in my rotator cuff, and he put me on a physical therapy routine. (An MRI to confirm the diagnosis would have been nice, but my insurance company insisted that I had to do everything up to and including an arm transplant before they would pay for one. Bastards!)

The therapy worked, sort of. The pain eased, strength returned, and so the therapy ended. I could have followed up, I should have followed up, because the pain never went away completely. But after that big snow storm we had had enough. So I spent the summer (clandestinely) looking for work in Florida instead of worrying about my bum shoulder.

I finally got a job back in Florida, and we moved back in September. For most the next three years, I just ignored my shoulder and arm. Sometimes it would get worse, and sometimes it would get better, but the pain never went away. I decided this spring that when work slowed down in the summer that I would finally get it checked out.

But during the busiest part of the work year, the pain suddenly became almost unbearable. So I finally went to another doctor last June. She quickly figured out that the problem wasn't with my shoulder, it was with my neck. She referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. Seven weeks later I finally got to see the ortho. Looking at x-rays, he surmised that I had probably damaged the disk between between my C-5 and C-6 vertebrae, that damage had never healed, and that bone was now growing between them. This situation would aggravate the nerves and potentially my spinal cord. (This also explain why pain killers never worked.) An MRI a week later confirmed that the doctor had surmised correctly, and that there was additional damage between C-6 and C-7.

Unfortunately, this condition is permanent. The disk will never repair itself, and the bone growth will always be there. But I do have three treatment options.

First, I have started a physical therapy routine designed to strengthen my neck and shoulders. This routine coupled with better posture should ease the pain and hopefully prevent things from getting worse. The second option is cervical epidural injections. Steroids would be injected into the epidural space in the damaged region. These injections can provide pain relief for weeks or even months at a time. Plus, steroids so I can Hulk up on 'roid rage!

The third option is ye olde spinal fusion. An incision would be made on the front of my neck, the damaged disk would be removed and bone graft would be inserted into that space. Eventually the bones would all grow together and I'd have one gigantic vertebra in my neck along with several normal sized ones. Unfortunately, this procedure leaves a very tiny scar on the front of the neck. I had hoped for a big, ugly, Frankenstein Monster-type scar, but no such luck.

For now, I'm just doing therapy. Less than two full weeks in I can already feel improvement. My neck and shoulder feel better. But now that I'm not focused on that pain, I'm realizing that my elbow feels like the funny bone is getting continuously whacked. Still, it is improvement. However, if I'm this decrepit at 38 I can't help but think that a spinal fusion lies in my future.

Which brings me to Al Gore and Global Warming. If we had more Global Warming there would be less snow. This implies less snow shoveling. Since shoveling snow leads to broken necks, snow is bad. Therefore Global Warming must be a Good Thing. And everyone knows that Good Things rule. You can tell by the capitalization and the bold font.

But Al Gore opposes Global Warming. Therefore Al Gore wants more snow, and by implication more broken necks, more pain, and more suffering. (I'll bet his fat ass never shovels snow. He leaves that for the little people while flying around in private jets and driving SUVs. Environmentalist my ass.) I'm not certain why Al Gore wants more broken necks (although I'm working on a few theories), but he clearly does. Therefore he sucks.

Really, it's all very simple.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Al Gore Sucks, Global Warming Rules!

More later. Suffice it to say that Al Gore wants people to break their necks, and Global Warming will save us from the evil threat of frozen precipitation.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It Is Finished

We've bought a new computer. After going to an Apple Store and trying out a Mac, we decided to stick with a PC.

The Mac OS X environment was just ... off. For example, the little min, max and close buttons were on the wrong side of the upper bar. On the left? That makes no intuitive sense. Most people are right-handed, and are likely to move the cursor off to the right to get it out of the way. Therefore, having those buttons on the right side makes sense. Possibly that can be customized, but I looked at five or so computers, and they all had that same annoying feature. And that little tool bar hide button? WTF is that about? I don't really need a specialized feature for that.

Other annoying features:

1) The email program would indicate when a word was misspelled, but it wouldn't make any suggestions for the correction. (The word processing program did have that function, so all was not lost.)

2) I tried out the Mac version of Microsoft Office. Excel was so strangely configured that I had no idea what the hell was going on at first. Pages laid out side by side like a bunch of loose leaf notebook paper? I practically live in Excel spreadsheets for 40+ hours a week, and I had never seen that kind of lay-out before. Not to mention that getting the toolbars set up correctly was a hassle. (I am very particular about my toolbars in Excel.) That was a definite minus.

3) The Safari web browser refused to expand beyond a certain dimension.If you're going to have all of that screen but not use it, then what's the point.

Perhaps we could learn how to do all of these things, but why bother? Frankly, the inutuitive nature of the Mac is over-rated.

On the plus side, the Macs are a nifty little package. Very compact, although the keyboard looked like a toy. I'm not sure how I felt about the mouse. We were standing the whole time, so the angle made using the mouse uncomfortable. (Not to mention that it was almost as hot in the store as it was outside, and much stuffier. Sweating like a football player in training camp didn't enamour me of the whole "Apple Experience" (tm). Have those primitives from California not heard of that fine invention the air conditioner?)

So a general feeling of being in Bizarro Computing Land coupled with physical discomfort made us decide "The Hell with this!" So we took the advice of the IT guy from my wife's job, and went with the PC he recommended. Now all we have to do is wait for it to arrive.

Conversational Snippet: Physical Therapy Edition

Wife: I don't remember... Did you break your neck and back in the car wreck?
Me: No, just my back.

(No, the wreck in question is not of recent vintage. The conversation was earlier tonight, however.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Old Computer Blues

Last night our main comp finally died, five and a half weeks shy of its fifth 'birthday'. So, we need to buy a new computer pronto. We need to be able to run MicroSoft Office on the new machine, and would like to save some of our old games, all Wintel programs.

So, does anyone have any advice they would like to give?

UPDATE: Okay, I should have really put more about specifics up, but I was in a hurry this morning. In a new machine there are certain requirements that just have to be met, program-wise:

1) MicroSoft Office (at least Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and probably Access and Outlook
2) Must be able to run certain chess programs, namely Chess Assistant or ChessBase
3) Hopefully play old games dating back to 2000
4) Must be capable of handling online poker clients (a sometimes hobby)
5) Must be compatible with our HP printer

Additionally, being Citrix compatible would be nice, although I don't think that is an issue for anything newer than a Commodore 64.

So, points (1), (2) and (4) and probably (5) mean that I need a Windows machine.

In the past, my wife and I have adopted the strategy of buying the most powerful widely available home computer (meaning, we haven't done the quad Xeon processor type thing) and using it for five years. Actually, that's worked fairly well for use, as I'm typing this on a ten year old Pentium Pro machine.

We will keep using this strategy, more or less. I still need to check Bill's suggestions about the Mac that does Windows machine, but I'm wondering what's the point in buying an Apple clone of a WIntel machine. At the moment, we're leaning towards buying a Dell. (Another point: my wife and I are end-user types, not interested in building our own hotrod.)

Hopefully this better defines the problem, and we do appreciate the comments. (And thanks Reader for the email.) But one way or another we will be making a purchase by tomorrow evening.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Most Important Story of the Day

Here. It's a fun little story about how the Feds are basically cheating on their accounting. Enjoy!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hurri-blogging

Also, hurried-blogging. The AP has a story about some new research on trends in hurricane strength.

MIAMI -- Scientists linking the increased strength of hurricanes over recent years to global warming have not accounted for outdated technology that may have underestimated storms' power decades ago, researchers said in a report published Friday. The research by Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center challenges two studies published last year by other respected
climatologists.

...

The study claims historical storm data has been rendered out-of-date by new technology that better estimates the strength of hurricanes. He pointed to advancements in the quality of satellite imagery that is used to estimate a storm's strength when it can't be directly measured by aircraft or on land. In short, Landsea said, there were far more Category 4 and 5 storms in decades past than previously thought, because satellite imagery has improved so greatly.
Of course, this being science, and science being hard, another researcher has already fired back.
[Kerry] Emanuel [of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] discounted the Science piece and said he put considerable effort into accounting for changes in estimating storm strength.

``They ignore the most significant finding from my Nature paper _ that Atlantic hurricane activity is highly correlated with sea surface temperature, which is comparatively well-measured,'' Emanuel said by e-mail from the Queen Mary 2, where he is lecturing on storms. ``This cannot be explained away by invoking rather qualitative arguments about data quality.''
Of course, this new research could alter Emanuel's earlier work, which the article describes as "the first major research to challenge the belief that global warming's affect on hurricanes was too slight to accurately measure and that climate change likely won't substantially change tropical storms for decades."

Incidentally, the improbably named Chris Landsea created a bit of a fuss back in 2005 for publicly withdrawing from the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He "[came] to view the part of the IPCC to which [his] expertise [was] relevant as having become politicized."

I hope to return to this in coming days. Hopefully I can shake off the mid-summer blogging doldrums.

Hat Tip: Drudge. Go ahead and click over. He needs the traffic spike.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Soccer Blogging?!

Soccer blogging! WTF? Anyway, slightly over five minutes into the World Cup Final and the Italians are looking like a bunch of thugs. They've already leveled a cheap shot on one of the French stars, trying to split Henry's head open with a forearm shiver, received a yellow card for another foul, and been hit with a penalty kick for another foul! Damn! I guess I'm going to have to cheer on the French. I hate that!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My New Favorite Comic Strip

Dinosaur Comics! Dinosaur Comics concerns the adventures of three talking dinosaurs, T-Rex, Utahraptor and Dromiceiomimus. Also, things get stomped. A young Canadian named Ryan North creates this wonderful madness. Now for some samples!

In this strip T-Rex and Utahraptor figure out what God is really up to. (This also falls into line with my wife's First Principle of the Universe: God ... plays ... jokes! I think I'll add a post about the things I believe to be true to the long list of posts that I have started, but not yet finished. Maybe I should rename this blog Unfinished Blogpost Theatre.)

This strip discusses the two very best things to be in this life.

A series of strips that begins here (just keep hitting next at the bottom of the strip until you reach the end of the story arc) explores whether or not goatees automatically make one evil. (Signs point to Yes!) (I may need to grow one of those.)

I hope you enjoy T-Rex's exuberance and lust for life as much as I do. If so, you can always petition your local paper to include it in their comics section.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Geek Blogging: Master of Champions

GAH! I knew not having a laptop would eventually do me in! I SO wanted to simul-blog Master of Champions tonight, but I can't do it looking over my shoulder the whole time and I can't type that fast anyway.

But I DVR'ed it and hope to get back to it this weekend. But for now, a few observations:

  1. First, I like the concept but I wasn't too thrilled with the execution.
  2. Second, Princess Elayne was a deserving winner, but I would have enjoyed it more if she were 18 instead of 14. There was a certain porniness to it, but 14's jailbait.
  3. Thirdly, I'd rather have two broken feet, with every step causing me agony, than have a ruptured testicle. Who knew unicycling could be so extreme? Forget the helmets they were wearing, give 'em some cups!

I'm sure any men out there can back me up on point number 3.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Earlier Tonight....

Revised and extended remarks on an unusual topic: hockey blogging. What's up with that?

Also, a two (possibly three) front flame war broke out with my arch-nemesis Pooh. Note the bob-and-weave technique: first I get him to agree with me on something, and then I switch to a different attack: Shaolin Snake-style blogging. (Maybe I should have brought up the Dragon style, just so I could mention Tit Yang Sum Si. Naaaah, too obvious.)

This was follwed by some Hell blogging, which was not at all merely an excuse for a clip-post. Hell is serious business, and everyone who knows me just how serious I am.

A brief interlude was taken during the Hell blogging to compose a comment that I particularly enjoyed. Maybe not a truly great comment, but for whatever reason I enjoyed writing it. And who knew there was a Schizophrenia Daily News?

Finally, for the sake of balance, I ended with some Heaven blogging. Dorothy was right, there's no place like home, and on some days home is as far as the eye can see.

Finally, for a night cap, I've ended with some insomnia blogging, which has been pretty much just an excuse for a clip post.

Even the Heavens Smiled Upon Me

Today at work we finished a very difficult project (a set of projects, really) with a presentation to senior management. Everything went swimmingly well. The post-mortem meeting after the presentation quickly devolved into a discussion about our favorite sounds in sports. (Number One: The crack of a wooden bat on a baseball. Number Two: That sweet thwap that a perfectly shot basketball makes as it goes through the net. Backspin and twine, baby, backspin and twine.) The meeting went that well.

Shortly thereafter I left for home. As I turned onto the 417 I realized I was driving into a strong rain cell. I wasn't crazy about driving in the rain today, and hoped that my wife could avoid it, but them's the breaks. Living in Florida, one gets accustomed to driving in the rain.

And the rain has its rewards. I knew the grass and all the other plants would have that post-shower green look about them, that the air would be cleaner, that the sunset would be more beautiful, that the steam coming off the ground would give the atmosphere that languid quality that defines Florida in summer.

I didn't expect a full rainbow to be directly in my path for the last ten minutes of my drive home, hovering over the area where my house sits. It didn't dissipate until right before I turned onto my street. With heavy traffic and unusually cooperative traffic lights, I didn't get to look for that pale outer rainbow that sometimes surrounds a full bow, but I know it was there. Some days the skies bring gifts, and the skies never skimp. I'll never leave Florida again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I'm on a Blooooooog Roll to Hell!

Via Amba, I saw this bit of madness: an online quiz to determine which Circle of Hell one is likely to inhabit. Let's see how I did....

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Okay, let me analyze these results.

Purgatory (Repenting Non-believers) Score: Very low.

This is correct, as I am not at all the repenting type.

Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers) Score: Moderate

Also a correct assessment: I am a non-believer, and non-virtuous. Half-full of one, half-empty of the other.

Level 2 (Lustful) Score: Very High

Hey, I only went to that club for the Shakespeare! Well, that and the strippers....

Level 3 (Gluttonous) Score: High

Ah, my second favorite sin. How to avoid gluttony when we live in such an age? Even the non-wealthy can eat like kings these days, if not every day then as often as our incomes will allow. Yum, Mark's Las Olas.

Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious) Score: Low

I guess this is correct. After all, I'm not broke yet.

Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy) Score: Very High

Wrathful? Gloomy? Well, what the Hell did you expect?

Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics) Score: High

See Purgatory and Level 1 above.

Level 7 (Violent) Score: High

A guy with a name like Stab Master Icepick just may be violent, yes. Just maybe. But I could be worse, and that's why I didn't score a "Very High".

Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers) Score: Moderate

I'm not sure how I scored as highly as I did on this one. Must be because I used to work in consulting....

Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous) Score: Low

Should be "Very Low". Also, I hate cold weather, so this REALLY isn't the Circle for me!

Now let's see how the Missus did.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Moderate
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

This seems mostly correct, as my wife is moderate in most things. But I don't quite get the "High" score for Wrathful and Gloomy (must be commute-related anger) or the "Moderate" for Treacherous. Both of those seem too high. (And how the Hell can one be moderately treacherous anyway?)

So this is to be my fate:
You have come to a place mute of all light, where the wind bellows as the sea does in a tempest. This is the realm where the lustful spend eternity. Here, sinners are blown around endlessly by the unforgiving winds of unquenchable desire as punishment for their transgressions. The infernal hurricane that never rests hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine, whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them. You have betrayed reason at the behest of your appetite for pleasure, and so here you are doomed to remain. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy are two that share in your fate.
That last sentence sounds more like an inducement than a warning!

And my wife will share the same fate, only not quite so much.

This concludes tonight's Hell-blogging. I hope you enjoyed it more than I did!